So much hand-made gift making this time of year and so little time! I decided to try my hand at some macarons as my gift to my son's playschool teachers. He's officially transitioned into JK now and will no longer be seeing the two wonderful ladies who have helped him make this social and academic transition with so much love and dedication for the past year.
I've made the cookie part of the macaron before and never paid much attention to getting perfect "pieds" (feet) or shiny un-cracked tops - since we would just gobble them down without so much as a look anyway :) And I've never bothered with filling them with cream or the like, since they were just being enjoyed by us at home. But since these were being made for a gift, I thought I would try to make them nice and pretty and fill them (a first!)
I think they turned out not bad... Although I'll walk you through some of my thoughts and ponderings on the making of this temperamental cookies and show you the messed up tray of macarons later in the post :P I used David Lebovitz's recipe for French Chocolate Macarons because you can't go wrong with one of his recipes!
Unfortunately, I didn't make it out to the health food store where they sell almond meal/flour. So I had to make do with grinding up some sliced almonds. As you can see, you an only get them to a certain fineness at home...
I could tell during the folding process that my macarons were going to have fine chunks of almond in them! (My hubby actually liked them this way and I do too, but I think they detract from the smooth, shiny finish in a perfectly constructed macaron.)
Piping macarons, or anything for that matter, takes a bit of practice. Although in my case, part of the problem was that I whipped the eggs whites up a little too stiff and the batter didn't really flatten out at all after they were piped onto the cookie sheet. I ended up with quite a few tails where I lifted the icing bag away... You don't want those if you're going to fill your macaron with cream/filling, because they need to lie as flat as possible when you're sandwiching them.
I took David Lebovitz's advice and tried just rapping the baking sheets really hard on the counter (no sitting time) before baking. As you can see my macarons still developed little feet but I think they could have had better feet and shinier tops if I'd let them dry out a bit, as common practice dictates. Although I'll retry this comparison between sitting and no-sitting time next time (without overbeaten egg whites/stiff batter) and see if the results are better.
And here's the promised messed-up tray of macarons.
This is what happens when you have too many trays of macarons to bake and too little time in the morning to do it in! Instead of waiting for some space on the nice, evenly heated middle racks of my oven to free up, I rushed my bake jobs and put all three sheets of macarons in at once. Needless to say, they cracked from overheating and being too close to both the bottom of the oven and the rack above them!
Not to worry though, nothing goes to waste at our house [wink]. We sandwiched those ones with some jam and ate some plain, we don't have any qualms about eating scraps at our house :P
All in all, I think they turned out okay and I had more than enough pretty ones to package up little baggies for my son's teachers. The balance of sweet and bittersweet in this recipe was perfect and the texture was melt in your mouth without being too gooey with the chocolate ganache. The only problem is that they disappeared way too fast and now I feel as if we could use some more. Maybe (my fav) pistachio next time?